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L A W R E N C E H . M A R T I N , J R . Hampden-Sydney College Odd Exception or Mainstream Tradition: “The Shot” in Context In September 1941, for the third autumn after his introduction to Idaho, Ernest Hemingway went to Sun Valley. He and M artha Gellhorn had spent the spring in the Far East as war correspondents and political reporters, and they had passed a restorative summer in Cuba. Their arrival in Idaho was timed, as usual, to coincide with the shooting season, and Hemingway intended this year to do some big-game hunting (Baker 367) ^ In 1939, early in his association with Idaho and Sun Valley, Hem­ ingway had been invited as a special guest on an expense-paid elk hunt, but he withdrew at the last moment to complete For W hom The Bell Toils, leaving his license unused and lending his rifle to his new friend, guide Taylor Williams (Arnold 53). In 1940, Hemingway did shoot a pronghorn antelope, his first big game in Idaho. He and his quarry were pictured in a Sun Valley advertising brochure (Arnold 96), thus fulfilling part of a quid pro quo with the Union Pacific management. Later the same year, Hemingway turned down a mule deer hunt in order to travel to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to marry M artha on November 21. The hunters took some rec­ ord trophies, and Lloyd Arnold tantalizingly sent photographs to Heming­ way, by then preparing for the forthcoming trip to China. In September 1941, Europe had been at war for two years, the Japanese conquest of the far Pacific had been proceeding for four years, and the United States stood unaware on the eve of a declaration of a world war. Perhaps foreseeing the global disaster, perhaps foreseeing the five-year hiatus before his next fall in Idaho, or perhaps merely accustomed now to an autumn vacation in a beautiful setting among glamorous movie stars and tough but friendly Westerners, Hemingway went to Sun Valley in 1941 to go hunting. The late-September antelope hunt planned by Taylor Williams was at first a failure. The party hunted unsuccessfully for two days before 314 Western American Literature getting within shooting range of a herd, only to have Lloyd Arnold spook the animals with his camera. According to Arnold, Hemingway came “on the double, . . . cursing a blue streak, ran on by me twenty yards, skidded to a stop, raised his rifle, and in a barely perceptible pause in lineup, let off his single shot” (Arnold 125) .2The distance was a measured two hundred seventy-five yards, the animal was running, Hemingway had just sprinted to the firing point carrying a heavy rifle, and the shot struck home. Arnold’s photograph ( 124) shows a grinning Hemingway in his African hat prop­ ping up a prize antelope as son Gigi measures the horns. (The well-known picture became the jacket photograph for Gregory Hemingway’s book Papa: A Personal Memoir. )3 In the animal’s near shoulder, with surgical precision, is a single bullet hole. W hat Hemingway did on September 26, 1941, is the epitome of his aspirations as a sportsman. By phenomenal skill— or by phenomenally good luck— he made an extraordinarily difficult shot, and by the greatest good fortune he did it under the eye of professional hunters and seasoned marks­ men, the men he admired and perhaps envied, and whose approbation he valued highly. When one of them— Pappy Arnold— praised “the know­ how of the born hunter” (Arnold 126) and another—Beartracks Williams — exclaimed “T hat’s rifle shooting, if you ask me” (Meyers 500), the one who made his living by writing must have felt admitted to the fraternity of the real professionals. The significance of the 1941 hunt slept unrealized, or at least unex­ pressed, for ten years. In April 1951, True magazine, a melodramatic and garish adventure pulp for men, published “The Shot” by Ernest Heming­ way, “one of our greatest living writers” (True 25), according to the author of the title caption. The first part of the article is an apparently irrelevant, rather selfpromoting tale about a Cuban professional gunman who needs to get out...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 313-320
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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